by Emily Leedham
On Rank & File Radio – Prairie Edition, Avi Lewis, Co-founder and Strategic Director of the Leap, shares the untold story of the Leap Manifesto, labour and the 2016 Federal NDP convention in Edmonton, Alberta. We also talk about the pressing need to bridge the labour and climate justice movements, and what we can do to get there.
The Leap is a coalition member of the Pact for a Green New Deal, alongside other groups such as the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, CUPE Ontario, Fight for $15 and Fairness, and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The Green New Deal envisions a just transition away from fossil fuels, implementation of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, and a massive expansion of low carbon, green jobs.
I talked to Avi Lewis on Saturday, June 22 in Winnipeg, on the last stop of the Leap’s seven city tour across Canada to talk about the Pact for a Green New Deal.
According to the Green Deal Deal Canada website:
“A Green New Deal is a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity, meet the demands of the multiple crises we face, and create over a million jobs in the process. It would involve the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), dozens of other pieces of legislation, new programs and institutions, and a huge mobilization calling on the creativity and participation of all of us.
“We call on workers, Indigenous communities, students, trade unions, migrants, community organizations and people across the country to gather, define and design a plan for a safe future and more prosperous present. The conversation about a Green New Deal for Canada must be led from the ground up.”
Over the past several months over 150 Green New Deal town halls across Canada have been organized by local groups. Here in Winnipeg, over 200 people attended the first town hall. This month, the Leap partnered with local organizations to organize a seven city Green New Deal Canada tour.
Beyond a handful of unions and labour organizations, Avi Lewis says the trade union movement has not taken enough leadership on climate justice and remains distant from Green New Deal organizing. And he believes what happened at the 2016 Federal NDP Convention in Edmonton, Alberta could have something to with it.
Before there was the Green New Deal, there was the Leap Manifesto – a 15 point plan for a just transition away from fossil fuels, implementing the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous peoples, and challenging massive wealth inequality. The manifesto was developed in 2015 through discussions with energy and environmental justice groups, Indigenous communities and trade unions. It has been signed by activists, artists, politicians and many trade unions.
But in 2016, the Leap Manifesto was subject to what Lewis describes as a smear campaign, by both former Alberta premier Rachel Notley, former Chief of Staff Brian Topp and Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.
Lewis says this drove a wedge into the union movement across Canada, and contributed to labour’s overall lack of action on the climate crisis to this day. But in order to win, the Green New Deal needs labour on board.
In this interview, we talk about the pressing need to bridge these two movements, and how the student climate strikes can facilitate that.
For more information on local organizing visit www.greennewdealcanada.ca and www.fridaysforfuture.ca.